Generally, you can claim the American opportunity credit if all three of the following requirements are met.
  • You pay qualified education expenses of higher education at an eligible educational institution.
  • You pay the education expenses for an eligible student.
  • The eligible student is either yourself, your spouse, or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.
Student qualifications.

Generally, you can take the American opportunity credit for a student only if all of the following four requirements are met.

1.     As of the beginning of the tax year, the student had not completed the first four years of postsecondary education (generally, the freshman through senior years of college), as determined by the eligible educational institution. For this purpose, do not include academic credit awarded solely because of the student's performance on proficiency examinations.

2.     Neither the American opportunity credit nor the Hope Scholarship Credit has been claimed (by you or anyone else) for this student for any four tax years before the current tax year. If the American opportunity credit (and Hope Scholarship Credit) has been claimed for this student for any three or fewer tax years before the current tax year, this requirement is met.

3.     For at least one academic period beginning (or treated as beginning) in the tax year, the student both:
  • Was enrolled in a program that leads to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential.
  • Carried at least one-half the normal full-time workload for his or her course of study.

     The standard for what is half of the normal full-time workload is determined by each eligible educational institution. However, the standard may not be lower than any of those established by the U.S. Department of Education under the Higher Education Act of 1965. For purposes of whether the student satisfies this third requirement for the year, treat an academic period beginning in the first three months of the next year as if it began in the current year if qualified education expenses for the student were paid in the current year for that academic period.
4.     As of the end of the current year, the student had not been convicted of a federal or state felony for possessing or distributing a controlled substance.